Noted author, Kathy Kacer, has examined the Holocaust from numerous angles and has presented its history to young readers in a clear, engaging style. This book is part of her Heroes Quartet, a series of Holocaust stories featuring individuals who exhibited exemplary, courageous behavior.
Louder Than Words approaches the topic from a slightly unusual perspective, that of a non-Jewish housekeeper left to care for a family of young Jewish girls in 1941 Ukraine. Their father has died and their mother must work to support the family. The mother later disappears, leaving the girls with no one but this warm, loving housekeeper to turn to for safety and security.
The story is based on actual events. Nina Pukas, on whom the character of the housekeeper is based, has been honored by Yad Vashem as one of the “Righteous Among Nations.”
Nina shepherds her young charges through early antisemitic incidents as the world seems to change around them. Their school shuts its doors to Jewish students. Yellow stars must be affixed to the girls’ clothing. Previously friendly neighbors start to show open hostility. Their house is set on fire and they realize the town fire truck will not arrive, leaving them homeless.
Nina’s loving care contrasts with the attitude shown by another non-Jewish character, an aunt by marriage who shows only cruelty. Without Nina’s warmth and concern, survival would be impossible.
This is a profile in true, selfless courage, spotlighting a role model from whom readers can learn and portraying a family of brave young girls with whom they can identify. It reminds readers that courageous, loving, caring people, although few and far between in Holocaust-era Europe, are worthy of our respectful memory and of lasting honor.
Michal Hoschander Malen is the editor of Jewish Book Council’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A former librarian, she has lectured on topics relating to literacy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.